Amsterdam: It’s Always the Chocolate… And Other Things

Whoever said Amsterdam is a biker’s heaven should’ve mentioned “not for the weak-hearted”. And also advised to stay away from open spaces. The wind was getting everywhere, biting my skin, making my eyes tear, and blowing the bike off the course as I was slowly progressing to the city center from AUC dorms where I was staying.

It felt like I was fighting with a mighty magician who put up a spell against me. I barely made it up the hill next to the train station, and gave up. I parked the bike and continued on my two feet. I should find a hat. I really do need a hat.
Coffeeshops, weirdos, narrow streets, flashy signs, cobblestone… A piece of a church attracted my attention in a sidewalk, and I turned left. I was passing by as the spicy smell of chocolate, the most genuine smell ever, caught my attention. I couldn’t resist.
The place was called Puccini Bomboni. I can’t help laughing when I think that every new city draws me to a chocolate shop like an invisible magnet, for the same thing happened in Berlin!
A blond lady in her late forties was the only person working in the shop. Her mother set up the place ’round thirty years ago, and apparently it’s pretty famous, even mentioned in Nat Geo. All chocolate was made by the very same lady on the other side of the counter. My old idea of interning at a chocolate shop and learning to make the deliciousness flashed in my mind. Tried to get an apprenticeship, but the owner told me I needed to speak Dutch… Eh, maybe next time! I still got some sweets – apple, cranberry, and plum in dark chocolate. 6,25 euro for three small pieces. Shame on me, but totally worth it. The taste was divine. If I’ll keep up the good budgeting (which seems to be a challenge here), I might be able to take some home!
Wandered into a Thai cafe, my ears still ringing from the wind, and got a Tom Yum soup. They had a very special understanding of Tom Yum, for the portion was small, had mushrooms, and no noodles in it (I could compare to Thailand and NYC version of Thailand). This seemed to be an Asian street of some sort, Chinese dragons and typical rooftops all over. I thought Of heading to the famous flower market, but got lost on the way. It’s really easy to get lost in the circles of pathways around the center. I got startled by a figure moving in one of the windows, a half – naked dark-haired woman. The Red Light district spread around and it’s hard to notice at first: you wander by cafes and hipster shops and then suddenly bump into the wall full of naked ladies, posing for the passers-by and trying to attract the clients. They’re mostly not very young and not very pretty; but what I like about it is that no one tries to make it illegal here in the Netherlands. Ain’t it better for the government to collect taxes from the oldest business in the world rather than provoking the underground? I remembered our visit to S.W.E.A.T. in Cape Town, and all the stories the local sex workers told us – of abuse, police pressure, and the constant feeling of insecurity. Better this way than that. I kept strolling, quickly getting used to naked bodies flashing here and there. Must be a boring job, standing in those windows all day, waiting for someone to come in.
The amount of coffeeshops (that offer anything but coffee) and smart shops (where they sell “health supplements”, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms and marihuana seeds) was pretty overwhelming. Sometimes I could see faces in the windows, with empty eyes and joints in their hands. I guess my attitude to drugs is not going to change. None of that shit is good for you, but trying light stuff once probably won’t kill you. One of the dorm-mates of my SAS friend Xintian that I’m staying with proclaimed that she’ll have a drugs week as soon as her friends from home come over, trying a different drug every day. Weed, ‘shrooms, LSD. Amsterdam seems to be stuck in the 60’s, minding all the vintage stores all around. Fun times.
I was really, really cold, and had no hat to shield my ears from the wind. I couldn’t find any clothes shops around and my offline maps weren’t too helpful. At last, I saw a tiny street market, and a nice British lady – Josephine – sold me a Nepalese woolen hat. Life got so much better. I also got an offer to come pick olives in Italy late autumn at her little estate which she’s renovating at the time. Why not Italy, haha?
I made it home at dusk in pouring rain, soaked from head to toes. Hot shower and hot tea never felt as wonderful. Oh those weathers!
Today Xintian’s away in Hague, and I’m on my own. The wind is howling outside, but I’m pretty determined to continue exploring the city. Maybe some museums today? [I almost wrote “mushrooms”. This city has bad influence on me]

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